New Zealand showjumpers notched an historic win this morning with victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi.
Childhood mates Samantha McIntosh, Bruce Goodin, Richard Gardner and Daniel Meech stole the show after a heart-stopping jump-off between New Zealand and Ireland. It is the first time New Zealand has won a Nations Cup in showjumping.
At the end of the first round, the Kiwis were one of four nations on four faults after clears from McIntosh aboard Check In 2 and Goodin on his new ride Backatorps Danny V, four faults from Gardner and Calisto, and eight from Meech and Fine.
In the second round, McIntosh rode another stunning clear to claim her half share of the 50,000 Euro to be split between those who finished the two with a clean slate. Meech, Gardner and Goodin had four apiece.
Other nations struggled, and by the end of the round, New Zealand and Ireland were tied on 12 faults, forcing a jump-off – despite the best efforts of the commentators who seemed to forget New Zealand was even in the running.
It was down to McIntosh, who has been in searing form all week, to pull off the win.
Cool as a cucumber and with oodles of class, McIntosh made it look easy aboard her 15-year-old stallion, putting the pressure on Irish rider Shane Breen who came home with 17 faults.
McIntosh – who is heading home to New Zealand later this month for an exciting new private show at Takapoto Estate in Cambridge – in her usual understated way, was every bit the gracious winner.
“Who would have dreamed that our day would end with winning a CSIO5* Nations Cup,” she said. “No words can explain how proud I am of Check In. He had such a huge week and to still come out fighting for the team in the jump-off today was amazing.”
And she paid tribute to the team.
“I am grateful to have such fantastic team members who all gave everything to be here and make it happen today.”
Those words were reiterated by each of the team members.
Goodin, who incredibly had never competed aboard Backatorps Danny V before and the horse hadn’t faced a 1.6m course before, described it as a fantastic team effort all week to bring the result.
“I am struggling to find the words to describe how happy I am,” he said. “Danny was amazing to have this result with the little experience he has.”
Gardner was also somewhat in shock.
“It is just all a bit unbelievable really,” he said. “Our horses jumped their hearts out for us today. It was such a struggle to even get here. It is a dream come true. Everyone is happy for us here as well . . . it is all quite overwhelming.”
And Meech said the victory topped a fantastic week.
“We had to work hard all week together as a team,” he said. “Coming in with little build-up plus Bruce riding a new horse wasn’t going to be easy. But as a team we did it. We have known each other since we were kids and have been dreaming of this day. It is a very special history-making day for New Zealand.”
He thanked the support the riders had received from across the globe.
“I hope this gives something back to New Zealand for hanging in there with us together. This is the best feeling ever.”
The Abu Dhabi contest was the first leg of the new 13-round worldwide series.
Results – New Zealand 12 faults (jump-off 0/40.16 seconds) 1, Ireland 12 faults (jump-off 17 faults/51.79) 2, Italy 20 faults 3, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates 24 faults =4, Egypt 36 7, Syria 42 faults 8.
The horse details – Check In 2 (owned by Lakeridge Equestrian), Estina (owned by Lakeridge Equestrian), Fine (owned by AB Kastanjegärden and Daniel Meech), Sitia-Blue (owned by Daniel Meech), Calisto 5 (owned by GestGestüt Jennissen and Gut Nechen Agrar GmbH) and Backatorps Danny V (owned by Bäckatorp Gård and Ulf Ryder).